(SHoP Architects)

Deron Williams may very well be one of the best point guards in the NBA, but basketball has always been a team game. The 30 franchises that make up the league have generated a revenue pie in excess of $5 billion. The digital age has enabled this game to reach its worldwide audience anywhere, anytime. Teams can build up their own local fan base through the sundry of platforms available.

Much like our #NFLTechSeries, this time SportTechie delves into the digital strategies–from web, social media, mobile apps, and any other technological connection–of each team and analyzes them, including insights from some of the digital executives involved. Today, the #NBADigitalSeries 2013-14 continues with the Brooklyn Nets. Stay tuned to SportTechie this month for ongoing coverage of the #NBADigitalSeries.

The race for supremacy in professional sports may be split by sport on the field. Bring that battle off the pitch and you might view the world of tech as the ultimate competition. Every team in the world, regardless of league or location, is in pursuit of the same trophy: your allegiance and the dollars that come with it. The digital universe opens the globe to any and all leveraging sport for profit, and few are engaging that opportunity as well as the NBA.

To be fair, basketball’s reach may rival the internet’s, and the two mix incredibly well. Its an optimal marriage for both, but efforts of innovators for the game’s most profitable powers have established the NBA among the digital elite. The NBA is recognized as one of the most influential brands on the web, a reputation built by global investors like Mikhail Prokhorav, owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Prokhorav has been as dedicated to the team working off the floor – marketing, analyzing, and developing through technology – as he is to the team (ranked as the highest payroll in the league this season) working on, and that investment is producing returns.

Faced with a unique challenge – moving the franchise from New Jersey to Brooklyn, in direct competition with one of the league’s historic powers, the Knicks, for millions of the league’s most passionate fans – the Nets have utilized three digital weapons to raise their game: their new home at the Barclays Center, social media and Elisa Padilla, the team’s SVP of Marketing and the leader of the Nets’ tech brigade.

Opened in late 2012, the Barclays Center has been billed as “the most high-tech stadium in sports”. One billion dollars and 35 court battles brought it to life, offering free WiFi capable of providing LTE service from the four major carriers to each and every visitor assuming a full capacity audience with each member using a smartphone, 8,000 square feet of LED sign space (including a three-story tall 1080p scoreboard hanging at center court), and the Oculus… a 360-degree LED marquee that surrounds the circumference of the outer pavilion.

The scoreboard at the Barclays Center has attracted a lot of attention

While the tech flows throughout (and around) the arena, the true innovation of the Nets shines best via mobile. The Barclays Center has served as the playground of Cisco, an official team partner and renown developer of tech solutions for business. Their relationship and the opportunity presented by the new arena have created a unique environment responsible for the creation of an amazing new product… the first true attempt to connect the live experience with the digital platforms on hand.

“Our relationship with Cisco has provided us the opportunity to really enhance the guest experience through Cisco StadiumVision Mobile,” says Padilla. “If we were at any other arena, this would have not been possible.”

StadiumVision’s idea is simple, synchronizing live video and in-stadium content with digital devices in the stadium via mobile application. StadiumVision is designed to provide an interactive, personalized multimedia connection for all, no matter where those attendees roam. At the Barclays Center, the Nets utilize StadiumVision to customize digital entertainment and promotions not only to various areas of the arena, but also to various fans and their personal settings and desires.

Its an amazing experience for the smartphone addict to attend any event at the arena, and the benefits for fans of the Nets are undeniable. More importantly, the team gathers information from those interactions to mold and drive future development of the tech, empowering the Nets to evolve their efforts to serve fans, to support the players and to strengthen their abilities to integrate all of their digital offerings, from social media and streaming video to geo-focused promotions.

“Our goal is to engage our true fans by providing the best game experience with the best talent in the NBA,” says Padilla. “With the new acquisitions, our hope is that those who are curious about the team, will venture to a game, have a great experience, purchase and merchandise and continue to come back or watch us on YES Network. Our players are very social savvy and the goal is to engage our player in promotions that are relevant and make sense for the brand and the players. From a brand perspective, we support our player initiatives through our digital mediums.”

(To help, some of the Nets worth following include Joe JohnsonShaun LivingstonPaul Pierce,Reggie EvansMirza Teletovic and Deron Williams… to name/link a few.)

Many of the teams in the NBA have embraced the benefits of progressive social media. More than a few are experimenting with mobile apps, multimedia integration and digital analytics. A select few are investing in the tech to drive it forward and create a new model of marketing for the organization. The Nets – with help from a powerful tech partner in Cisco, a powerful challenge in moving to a powerful new home, and a powerful opponent working in the same powerful city for the same powerful fans – are leading the way, helping their organization and the NBA earn respect as one of marketing’s true global powers.

Padilla explains, “Our philosophy is to engage our fans in an authentic and real time manner.  The only change that we made in the brand voice in the move to Brooklyn was to have a bit more of an attitude in our positioning, humble, yet confident in our interactions with fans.”

That philosophy and resulting change in culture has turned the Nets into winners in the game of tech. Finding the right philosophy to change the culture in the game of basketball… that’s a challenge requiring more time and money. Fortunately, the Nets are led by folks who understand one can inspire the other. It’s just a matter of time.